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Wonderful news: The 220th Presbyterian Church General Assembly just voted 457-180 (with 3 abstentions) to boycott products made in the illegal Israeli settlements. This was their resolution #15-02.

A vote last night (resolution 15-11) to divest the US Presbyterian Church from three companies that profit from the Israeli occupation --Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola Solutions--failed by a razor-thin margin: 333-331 with 2 abstentions. However, another vote today allows individuals with pensions with the Church to screen the three companies.

The Rationale for the Boycott

From the Assemby's COMMITTEE REPORT(see 15-2):

The Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns supports this overture because all Israeli companies operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are exploiting the natural resources of a people and territory that is under military occupation. These people have lost all power to assert their rights.

In light of the overwhelming vote by our sisters and brothers at the United Methodist General Conference in April 2012 for a sweeping boycott of ALL goods from ALL Israeli companies operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, ACREC recommends widening this overture from two companies to all Israeli companies based in the illegal settlements (not Israeli products from Israel).

The ACREC believes that the call by Peter Beinart, to “boycott non-democratic Israel,” meaning the settlements in the West Bank, is an effective non-violent way to protest the exploitation of Palestinian land and people. (See: To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements, By Peter Beinart, The New York Times, Op-Ed March 18, 2012 – Beinart self-identifies as an Orthodox Jewish Zionist).

The call of our Christian sisters and brothers in Palestine to support them by not buying products from companies in the settlements has parallels to the call for boycotts from the African American community during the civil rights movement. The companies in question profit from illegal exploitation of not only natural resources that belong to the rightful owners of the land, but also migrant workers from Thailand, The Philippines, and others.

List of Settlement Products

The Rationale for Divestment

The Presbyterian Church is mandated (by prior resolutions dating to 1971) to engage in socially responsible investment. According to the resolution voted on yesterday, "Elements of this process include research, correspondence, dialogue, proxy voting, and the possible filing of shareholder resolutions. Only after all other options fail to achieve the desired results, the committee on MRTI, through the GAMC, may recommend to the General Assembly (GA) divestment from particular corporations."

Since 2004, they have been trying to engage these three companies, to no avail.

Why Caterpillar?
The Caterpillar D9 is the main tool the Israeli Army uses to demolish homes, and agricultural areas in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. According to a Human Rights Watch report from 2011:

Israeli authorities have stepped up unlawful demolitions in the West Bank including East Jerusalem over the past year, displacing a record number of Palestinian families from their homes, an international coalition of 20 leading aid agencies and human rights groups said today...

...Since the beginning of the year more than 500 Palestinian homes, wells, rainwater harvesting cisterns, and other essential structures have been destroyed in the West Bank including East Jerusalem, displacing more than 1,000 Palestinians, UN figures show. This is more than double the number of people displaced over the same period in 2010, and the highest figure since at least 2005.[1] More than half of those displaced have been children for whom the loss of their home is particularly devastating.


Why Hewlett-Packard?


The Presbyterian resolution
states that HP's activities help to solidify the occupation. HP technology and hardware support the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, including interdicting humanitarian aid and attacking Palestinian fishermen. HP is also the source for the biometric scanning equipment "to monitor only Palestinians at several checkpoints inside the West Bank, including as part of the separate road system, restricting Palestinian movement. At these checkpoints, the 2.4 million West Bank Palestinians are required to submit to lengthy waits as well as the mandatory biometric scanning, while Israelis and other passport holders transit without scanning or comparable delays."

In addition, the resolution cites that HP does business with the illegal settlements in the West Bank, providing government data storage. "Despite the fact that Ariel is deep in the Occupied West Bank, the company’s published description of this work claims that Ariel is within Israel, including the use of a map making no reference to the West Bank as a separate occupied territory."

Why Motorola Solutions?
Motorola's involvement also helps cement the occupation. Motorola Solutions provides the technology for virtual fences and surveillance for the illegal settlements  of the West Bank, as well as for the illegal separation barrier in the West Bank, and in the wall surrounding Gaza. According to the website, Who Profits, "In some cases, the radar stations were erected on private Palestinian land, preventing Palestinian movement near the Israeli settlements."

What Now?

Although the boycott is unlikely to make a dent in the bottom line of any Israeli company in the occupied territory, it does make a dent in the idea of the "normalcy" and "inevitability" of the occupation. Good news for those who oppose the occupation, good news for those who hope for a two-state solution.

Originally posted to Adalah — A Just Middle East on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 09:15 AM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  thanks, with just a nit to pick (8+ / 0-)

    thanks for the news, it's good to see groups back up their ideological foundation with actions.

    When using as a noun the word you want is: rationale, not rational.  Rationale = ~the fundamental reason for doing something.  Rational = adjective.

  •  The vote went the other way. (3+ / 0-)

    Sorry, youre info is backwards.

  •  Banjo got it wrong (1+ / 0-)

    In Flyswatterbanjo's Israel-bashing zeal, he neglected to get the central fact right.

    In Close Vote, Presbyterian Church Rejects Divesting in Firms That Aid Israeli Occupation

    Ooops there, Banjo.

  •  For more information on PCUSA efforts (10+ / 0-)

    for social justice, see:

    “when Democrats don’t vote, Democrats don’t win.” Alan Grayson

    by ahumbleopinion on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 09:31:05 AM PDT

  •  Links to official Presbyterian website. (9+ / 0-)

    As is typical of us Presbyterians, what actually happened is difficult to decipher because you have to sort through several arcane committee report numbers, etc. But this much seems clear:

    1. We're not divesting from anything.

    2. We're going to "devise[s] a plan of active engagement in projects that will support collaboration among Christians, Jews, and Muslims. We also encourage greater denominational engagement with Christians in the West Bank around issues of job creation and economic development."

    If I have waded through this stuff correctly, the Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) Committee issued both a majority report (item 15-10) recommending divestment, and a minority report (item 15-11) recommending no divestment, but "positive engagement." The General Assembly voted to reject the majority report and approve the minority report. The link to the text of item 15-11, the minority report that was adopted by the entire General Assembly, says "This text of this component is being verified."

    Official Presbyterian links:

    Rejected divestment proposal:

    Approved "positive engagement" proposal:

    Uninformative Presbyterian news release (I have sent them a request for clarification):

    FWIW I think Peter Beinart's "boycott non-democratic Israel" proposal is brilliant, and I wish my denomination had signed onto it.

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 10:24:38 AM PDT

    •  Yes, it was difficult for me to sort out what (8+ / 0-)

      the the PCUSA did, but I think I did convey it.

      The didn't vote for divestment (as was the recommendation in the majority report), but they did vote to let individuals with pensions with the Church screen out the three companies doing business with the occupation that were mentioned in the majority report.

      They did vote for the minority report which calls for investment in Palestine.

      They did vote to boycott settlement products.

      Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

      by Flyswatterbanjo on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 10:53:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "They did vote to boycott settlement products"-NO? (0+ / 0-)

        The link to 15-11 in my comment above, previously down for verification, is now working [ ]. If I'm reading this right, this is the final version that was adopted by the General Assembly:

        Final Text:

        1.     call for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to pursue a positive and creative course of action with respect to the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict that will make a difference in the lives of those who are most vulnerable on all sides and that will preserve an effective witness to peace in the entire region;

        2.     call for a process of engagement that will bring Jews, Christians, and Muslims from the U.S. into effective partnering for study, travel, and social action;

        3.     advocate for the development of educational programs that expose U.S. Christians, Jews, and Muslims to the varied experiences of both Palestinians and Israelis;

        4.     devise a plan of active investment in projects that will support collaboration among Christians, Jews, and Muslims and help in the development of a viable infrastructure for a future Palestinian state. We also encourage greater denominational engagement with Christians in the West Bank around issues of job creation and economic development.

        [5. instructs the General Assembly Mission Council to create a process to raise funds to invest in the West Bank, and the program will be inaugurated no later than the meeting of the 221st General Assembly (2014).]

        I don't see anything there about boycotting settlement products.

        "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

        by HeyMikey on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 11:45:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The settlement boycott was taken up in 15-02, (9+ / 0-)

          not 15-11. See my link in the body of the diary--click on 15, then 15-02.

          They passed it by a wide margin:
          Affirmative:    457
          Negative:    180
          Abstaining:    3

          Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

          by Flyswatterbanjo on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 11:55:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Outstanding! Please update diary! (5+ / 0-)

            I think what's throwing us off is that the diary gives the wrong vote total. The 369-290 vote in the first line of the diary was on item 15-11. The vote approving 15-02 was 457-180. Why hasn't the NY Times picked up on this? (I just emailed their reporter.)

            Final text of approved 15-02:

            1. Call upon all nations to prohibit the import of products made by enterprises in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

            2. Call for the boycott of [all Israeli products coming from the occupied Palestinian Territories, including] AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories Beauty Products[.][and all date products of Hadiklaim, The Israel Date Growers Co-Operative Ltd, often marked by the brand names: King Solomon Dates and Jordan River (not Israeli products from Israel.)]

            3. Direct the Stated Clerk to communicate this action to all other PC (USA) councils and entities and invite and strongly encourage those groups and organizations to endorse this boycott until significant progress toward Palestinian rights and independence can be reported to the General Assembly or General Assembly Mission Council.

            4. Direct the Stated Clerk to inform our ecumenical partners of this action, both nationally and globally, and call upon them to join in the boycott of these companies.

            "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

            by HeyMikey on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 12:16:13 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the diary, FSB. (7+ / 0-)

    While last night's vote is disappointing, I'm amazed it was that close, as I suspect that there was enormous behind the scenes pressure.  Today's vote is good.

  •  What's most disappointing here is that (5+ / 0-)

    although a large number of votes were taken, as noted in both diary and commentary, the morning reporting for Israeli papers  is solely that the Ps rejected the motion calling for divestiture. As if somehow they had won a great contest and the BDSers were in retreat. There is always a problem in getting those who are being spoken to in fact to hear what is being said to them when they don't want to hear it.

    •  Yes, it's true. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Terra Mystica, poco, angry marmot

      The emphasis in the trad media seems to be that divestment didn't pass, and that's it--almost with a sigh or relief, for some reason.

      But they miss the big story that boycott DID pass, and by a wide margin.

      Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

      by Flyswatterbanjo on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 03:26:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've been following this closely - thanks for (6+ / 0-)

    the great write-up.

    I'm "THE" Troubadour," and not "Troubadour" without the article. We're different people here at DK :)

    by David Harris Gershon on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 04:02:14 PM PDT

  •  Excellent diary, fsb. The debate at the PCUSA was (5+ / 0-)

    outstanding.  Rational, spiritual, public/open (and therefore courageous as well) debate of a pressing moral issue.  The process and deliberateness that the PCUSA took to arrive at the vote was also remarkable.  

    The MRTI committee's deliberateness in assessing the matters of conscience of the Occupation resulted in a 2/3 majority recommending divestment.  That means that when all the facts are laid out and discussed in depth, the morality and next steps become clear.  A sign of things to come, imho.  A big sign.

    Mr. Ellison in particular was a stand-out.  He was test-pilot methodical in his treatment and explanation of the issue and process.  "We did this, this, this, and this over the last eight years and this is where we are..."  He is also from KS, which means that the awareness of the immorality of the Occupation and companies like Motorola, HP, and CAT's role in it is beginning to filter out beyond core activist groups.  Yet another major marker of things to come.

    It's too bad that the divestment vote didn't pass 333-331-2 (for the minority report substitution) but even given that, the overwhelming vote for boycott of settlement products shows where the sentiment lies.  I have to think that if CAT wasn't an integral part of many of the local economies represented at the GA (not sure how to fold that into or out of the morality, tbh, but it is a real factor in a decision like this), that the divestment vote would have passed.  Local economic loyalty only had to sway a very few votes as it turned out (Again, it was impressive that this factor was presented and received openly in the debate).

    As PCUSA was voting not divest and to seek positive investment opportunities in the WB (still no mention of Gaza), Israel announced the demolition of the entire village of Susya (probably with CAT equipment).  That real-time contrast (and all the other demolitions of positive investments in the WB) has to have an effect on the next vote in 2014.  The issue has been described, discussed and decided openly.  This gives a common framework for individuals to evaluate (and pray over) future events in that light.  

    A couple of side notes.

    1) The representative of the Palestinian Christian community that was to attend the GA was denied an entry visa into the US.  What BS.  One can only speculate whether that lack of personal witness affected the divestment outcome.  I think it probably did.  I'd sure like to know why s/he was denied.

    2) The external charges of PCUSA antisemitism (for seeking a moral position, no less) clearly hung over the GA debate like a dark cloud.  Pissed some delegates off.  Made many more delegates agonize (per the debate).  In the end it seemed to make the divestment vote [much?] more cautious than it would otherwise have been.


    In the end, this PCUSA process seemed more turning point than disappointment, to me.  There were/are a lot of constructive takeaways from this.

    Thanks again.  Important.

    •  Lots of great information in your comment, (4+ / 0-)

      Terra Mystica. Thanks so much.

      Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

      by Flyswatterbanjo on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 08:52:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The way you presented this made it clear why (3+ / 0-)

        the three companies were chosen.  Not because they were randomly selected for doing business with Israel, but because there were and are very specific issues of conscience with their participation in the Occupation (and by extension, with the Occupation itself).  That too is important.

        Your prognosis is right on:

        it does make a dent in the idea of the "normalcy" and "inevitability" of the occupation.

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